Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is essential for our well-being. But what role does it play in bread making?
It is commonly used in large bread productions as an improver or dough conditioner. Using ascorbic acid can strengthen the gluten structure of bread dough enabling it to trap more fermentation gas inside it and gain more volume. It is a cost-effective way of producing larger loaves.
Bread made with ascorbic acid will have a finer, more tightly packed crumb with a very soft texture. It is said that it can make bread stay softer for longer, but I have not seen proof of this in my experience.
Gluten development requires oxidization.
When we consume vitamin C it acts as an antioxidant, but when it is added to bread dough it does the opposite by oxidizing the dough. This can reduce the mixing time as the gluten is formed more quickly.
How to use vitamin C in bread making?
Many fruits and vegetables contain various concentrations of vitamin C. It can also be found in those fizzy supplement tablets. Or it can be bought as a pure powder which is 100% ascorbic acid. The powder is what bread factories use. But it can be bought online by a regular consumer too.
A very small amount is required. It is advised that 20mg – 30mg per 1kg of flour is enough. That is 0.02g – 0.03g. Most scales will not even register such a small amount. Saying that, I tried using 20mg per 1kg and it did not make a difference, so I ended up using 40mg per 1kg and that worked well.
When it comes to fresh lemon juice it contains around 50mg of vitamin C per 100g juice, so that makes it quite easy to calculate the required amount for a recipe.
I have read that people use the fizzy drink tablets, but I did not want to experiment with them because they are flavoured, and they contain other ingredients than just the vitamin.
What are the alternatives?
To make the crumb of a loaf softer and finer you can add some fat to the dough. You can use a dough improver made from flour like yudane or tangzhong. Eggs can work great too. These methods take slightly more skill than adding a pinch of powder to your dough, but they can produce better results.
The recipe specs.
All three breads contained 400g white bread flour, 5g instant dry yeast, 8g salt.
The bread with no additives was made with 255g water.
The bread with pure ascorbic acid contained 16mg or 0.016g of it. And 255g water.
The bread with lemon juice contained 32g lemon juice (which contains around 16mg ascorbic acid). And 226g water. The total amount of liquid is higher in this one at 258g. That is to compensate for the fact that lemon juice is not 100% water.
16mg vitamin C per 400g flour equals 40mg per 1kg like I stated above.
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